A curious thing has happened in the last decade or so of hockey at its highest levels: everyone who stepped on the ice was a better player than his or her predecessors.
Now, I’m not saying Frank Mahovlich wasn’t a good hockey player. Gordie Howe? He knew how to play the game in his era. Then there was Bobby Orr, who I can’t stop thinking about during our month of celebrating defensemen here at The Coaches Site.
But with respect to all the greats, these days we’re looking at a lot more Bobby Orr than ever before.
The advent of skills instructors in addition to traditional minor hockey coaches has been one factor in the improved skill of minor hockey players, but I’d argue a bigger factor still has been the desire to play a fast, creative game minus the clutching and grabbing of the 80’s and 90’s. Sure, Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey dominated n the 80’s, but in those days they could skate so much better than everyone else that the obstruction wasn’t as much of an obstruction, not compared to later times when everyone could skate, even the grinders on the fourth line.
Nowadays everyone wants to play the game. Auston Mathews has opened our eyes to the values of creativity, instinct, and pure skill, while Connor McDavid has provided an example of the world’s first perfect hockey machine.
So who’s going to pass the puck to those players?